St. Regis Vommuli

Marine biology St Regis Maldives Reefscapers [SR 2024.02] frames

During February, we created 5 new coral frames: 2 small + 1 medium, kindly sponsored by guests, plus 2 heart frames gifted by the resort.

All of our 182 coral frames were monitored (cleaned and repaired) with a total of 13 maintenance visits completed for the month of February. 5 frames were checked for their six-month monitoring cycle, and 11 frames were the first to be checked for their one year anniversary!

To see the progress of your frame, please visit our dedicated St Regis monitoring page where we upload new photos every 6 months or so.

🪸Dive Centre Site – continues to show macroalgae cover, especially for the frames closer to the edge of the reef. Despite this, the older frames (11 months old) have been growing well and all fragments are healthy, compared to the wild colonies that surround the site that have started to show paling and bleaching due to the seasonally elevated sea surface temperatures (SST).

🪸 Adopt-A-Coral Site – This month the frames on this site have shown great progress! the buried frames side has decreased and there was small macroalgae coverage. There was an increase of megafauna spotted in the site like our resident turtle being present during all the maintenance visits. It is planned for the next months to start making a path with the coral frames towards the shore for the guests to easily find the restoration site while they snorkel.

🎙️ Marine Talks – A total of 4 sessions were given for the Evening Talks, including “Sustainability Hour” and “Sea Turtles”, attended by a total of 10 guests. At the Kids’ Club, we conducted 4 sessions of “Shark Yoga” and 3 sessions of “Sea Turtle Beach”.

🤿 Marine Biology Excursions – A total of three excursions were conducted by the Marine Biologist in February, enjoyed by 10 guests; these included 3 Dolphin Excursions and 1 ‘Turtle Quest’ snorkelling trip. The most commonly sighted megafauna species were the blacktip and whitetip reef sharks.

Reefscapers coral frame SR0014 1-day

SR0014 was one of our first frames (February 2023)
transplanted at St Regis and sponsored by the resort

Reefscapers coral frame SR0014 6-months

Growth of SR0014 after 6 months …

Reefscapers coral frame SR0014 12-months

… and SR0014 after 12 months (3 Feb 2024)

Sheraton Full Moon

Our Reefscapers team at the Sheraton Full Moon Resort & Spa has had a busy February! Thanks to the high occupancy, many guests were interested in our coral propagation program, and we transplanted an impressive 22 new coral frames, including our 601st frame! In addition, we monitored (cleaned, repaired, photographed) a total of 65 frames across various sites around the island.

To see the progress of your frame, please visit our dedicated Sheraton monitoring page where we upload new photos every 6 months or so.

Reefscapers at Sheraton Maldives coral fragment
Reefscapers at Sheraton Maldives coral frames

Coral Spawning Research

Informal monitoring of gametogenesis was conducted in line with collection efforts for new coral frames and recycling. We observed immature white eggs in: A. humilis, A. nasuta, A. cytherea, A. gemmifera. Some of these eggs are increasing in size and showing slight signs of colouration, so we predict spawning around the April full moon period. We will continue to monitor for spawning from March into May.
This month, Kate submitted an abstract for the Fifth Maldives Marine Science Symposium hosted by the MMRI later this year, to present the findings of our paper published in October 2023.

Reefscapers research paper - coral spawning patterns

Monfared, Sheridan et al (2023): Coral spawning patterns of Acropora across two Maldivian reef ecosystems. PeerJ 11:e16315

Coral Bleaching Alert

Before discussing this month’s maintenance, it is important to highlight the NOAA bleaching forecasts. The Maldives will enter a ‘Warning’ phase in March, and will have reached ‘Alert Level 2’ by May. At the Sheraton, we plan to monitor for coral bleaching by following the national protocol by MMRI.

Measures to mitigate bleaching can include relocating frames where necessary. We can utilise temporary shading underneath the water bungalows, however, the depth of the water here might not provide sufficient respite for the corals. We can also utilise the depth of the Dive Centre Lagoon site to plant frames into deeper water. The typically poorer visibility in the lagoon here might also lessen the impacts of solar irradiance. Monitoring and combating the bleaching to the best of our ability will be a priority for the next 12 weeks.

Reefscapers at Sheraton Maldives hawksbill turtle
SST 1998 2016 2023-24 C3S (Copernicus Climate Change Service)

This month, through a combination of snorkelling and diving, we have been working around the island across all our coral propagation and reef restoration sites, photographing and maintaining our coral frames.

  • At the Blue Hole site – maintenance was focused on recycling and managing sand accumulation. From repeated work in this area over the last few months, it is evident that the shape of the Blue Hole is changing. The tide difference has been higher than average throughout the month, coupled with strong wave action which is typical for this time of year. The slope on the northern side of the site is becoming much steeper, which is threatening the frames immediately below. We have been moving any impacted frames, and we are looking at how to best arrange the frames to keep them in the lower-risk areas.
    Some very low tides in the early days of the month resulted in very high sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the Blue Hole, as the site becomes cut off from the waves behind Spa Island. The rising tides bring cooler waters again, but this seasonal cycle is to be expected to continue for several weeks. No paling or bleaching was observed.
  • Water Villas – following maintenance and monitoring activities this month, we are pleased that all frames continue to grow well. While some recycling is needed, new corals are attaching well, and mature colonies continue to thrive. The increased fish life is minimising algal growth. We have not experienced any paling or bleaching yet, although the shallow waters will mean these corals are vulnerable to up-coming higher temperatures.
  • Gili’s Falhu – Following a few days of strong wave action, three frames at Gili’s Falhu site were moved out of position. A few damaged fragments were replaced, and the frame was secured with substrate.
  • Dive Centre & Boat Garden – To mitigate bleaching for our newly transplanted frames, we are out-planting at greater depth at the Dive Centre Lagoon site (8-10m depth). We have also started to re-use the old Boat Garden site (2021) at depths of 10m.
  • Dive Centre – These pyramids are looking good following significant maintenance work in January. Dives to upkeep the area were carried out as well as to maintain the additional frames. Trimming of corals to collect for coral frames is also used to manage competition.
  • Lagoon – We conducted multiple maintenance dives at the pyramids, and removed some corallivorous Drupella snails. Overall, the pyramids are growing well here, but they are vulnerable to upcoming elevated sea temperatures due to the slow currents (water is quick to warm up).
Reefscapers at Sheraton Maldives coral pyramids
Reefscapers at Sheraton Maldives hawksbill turtle

Marine Talks – we conducted 12 Marine Talks this month, totalling 33 guest attendees, and averaging 50 minutes duration, with high levels of enthusiastic engagement and lots of questions. Interestingly, 4 of our coral frame sales stemmed directly from the Talks.

‘Maldivian Journey’ Snorkelling Activity – A total of 32 guests enjoyed our guided snorkel trips this month, averaging 65 minutes duration, and feedback remains overwhelmingly positive. We were excited to sight both blacktip reef sharks and spotted eagle rays on several trips.

Megafauna sightings – One February highlight was recorded sightings of 6 different hawksbills and one green turtle. Our house reefs are not usual foraging grounds, and the green turtle seems to have been attracted by our coral pyramids at the Dive Centre site. One of the hawksbills spotted at Gili’s Falhu was an amputee (missing one front flipper, as photo) but this did not seem to affect the turtle’s swimming behaviours or diving capability.
Spinner dolphins visited our Dive Centre Lagoon this month – a small pod came very close to land, much to the delight of several lucky guests. Nurse sharks were seen resting under the Dive Centre pyramids, and blacktip reef shark activity in the Blue Hole has been high throughout the month, undeterred by curious snorkellers.

Artificial reefs at Sheraton Maldives

SH001 was the first frame transplanted at Sheraton in February 2020 (sponsored by the resort)

Artificial reefs at Sheraton Maldives [SH001 2yo]

Growth of SH001 after 2 years …

Artificial reefs at Sheraton Maldives [SH001 3yo] SH001H00230704

… after 3 years … 

Artificial reefs at Sheraton Maldives [SH001 4yo] SH001H00231211

… and coming up to 4 years old. 💜